History faculty discuss Natchitoches Indian Agent John Sibley, Forgotten Flood of 1849 at conference


NATCHITOCHES – Faculty from the Northwestern State University’s history program presented papers at the 35th Annual Gulf South History & Humanities conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida, on Oct. 7.


Dr. James MacDonald, professor of history in the Department of Criminal Justice, History, and Social Sciences, gave a paper incorporating his ongoing research on John Sibley, Indian Agent for Natchitoches.  His presentation, “From Motives Both of Prudence and Humanity: John Sibley, Diplomacy, and the Natchitoches Indian Factory” explores the role Sibley and the United States government played in attempting to win the allegiance of Native Americans along the Red River after 1800, especially in the Louisiana Purchase.


“Sibley is an important historical figure,” MacDonald said.  “He encouraged the Jefferson administration to open an Indian Factory on the Red River in the hope that honest trade with local Indians would influence nations like the Caddo to shift all of their trade to the United States.  In the process, diplomatic efforts would weaken the influence of Spain west of Natchitoches in east Texas.”


Dr. Christopher Gilson, an assistant professor of history, is researching floods on the Red River before the Civil War.  His paper, “Louisiana’s Forgotten Flood: The Red River Flood of 1849,” describes one of the worst floods in the river’s history.  The August 1849 flood caused widespread damage to northeastern Texas, southwestern Arkansas, and Louisiana, where it left parts of Alexandria underwater for weeks.


“Flooding in 2015 and 2016 reminds us that the Red River Valley can be vulnerable to extreme weather,” Dr. Gilson explained. “Hopefully, by studying the causes and consequences of Louisiana’s ‘Forgotten Flood,’ we can better prepare for future challenges.”


Both faculty members plan to continue their research and present papers at the spring meeting of the Louisiana Historical Association in April of 2018.


For information on degree programs in NSU’s Department of Criminal Justice, History and Social Sciences, visit cjhss.nsula.edu.

Christopher Gilson James MacDonald